From time-to-time I like to link to long reads on the weekend. This piece in Vanity Fair (“The News Is Dying, but Journalism Will Not”: How the Media Can Prevent 2020 from Becoming 2016 | Vanity Fair) is excellent, and I am not saying that just because we made some of the same points about the media dying as in our post a couple of days previous. It goes well beyond what we said to include the role of Twitter, podcasts, horse-race journalism, and so on.
“Frank Bruni recently admonished the press in The New York Times for lavishing too much attention on Donald Trump’s tweets and silly nicknames. Brian Beutler of Crooked Media rightly condemned the media’s “misbegotten habit of prizing partisan balance over its obligation to faithfully represent political reality to consumers.” Jay Rosen, the N.Y.U. media critic, made a similar point about the news media’s addiction to “cheap drama” and ESPN-style programming. Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post media writer, recalled how, when she was public editor of the Times, she examined a sample of the paper’s campaign coverage in 2016 and found that “three out of every four pieces of political journalism were horse race coverage.” Of course, the Times was hardly the only culprit. Virtually no outlet was immune.
“Many political journalists choose to brush aside these criticisms, preferring to wash themselves of any wrongdoing, or just apologize and move along, despite the fact that trust in the media is at an all-time low. But one Times reporter, Nicholas Confessore, kindly engaged on Twitter, agreeing with Sullivan on the need for more substantive policy coverage, but lamenting how difficult it is to execute. “What’s really tough is integrating more policy reporting,” he said. “There’s a lot of policy reporting; but it’s mostly adjacent to campaign reporting. And candidate policy proposals are static; campaigns are not.”
And that sets the scene.
Later in the article, someone proposes a solution that says the medium itself is the message:
“The truth is that the news is dying, but journalism will not—and should not,” Derakhshan wrote last year. “The challenge for journalism in the years to come is to re-invent itself around something other than news, whilst resisting the seduction of propaganda and entertainment.” The news as a form, Derakhshan told me over the phone from Berlin, “has lost its cultural relevance, and as result its commodity value.” News was once the primary source of drama and national conversation in American culture. Not anymore. He calls this “the core crisis” of journalism. “The news, 200 years ago when it emerged in its modern form, had the monopoly as a source of drama,” he said. “That is eroding because of so many rivals, the latest of which is Netflix and games and cinema and TV. There are more rivals and people are willing to pay for them much more than they are willing to pay for news.”
This one sentence was key to me (and echoes MPS’ position):
“As Jessica Lessin of The Information wrote last week, “business model follows content, not the other way around.”
Anyway, if you have the time, this is really good and important writing. And trust me on this, the Villagers are going to hate it.